Ruchè is one of Piemonte's so-called lesser red wines, though once you have tasted it you never forget it: It is extraordinarily aromatic, rivaling the intensity of Brachetto on the nose, but dry. And therefore an absolute delight to sniff and swish in the glass. On the palate it tends to be light and fruity, with moderately intense tannins and fairly brambly acidity.
In addition to being a wine, Ruchè is a grape, grown exclusively in the Alto Monferrato (province of Asti), and more specifically in the Communes of Castagnole Monferrato, Grana, Montemagno, Portacomaro, Refrancore, Scurzolengo and Viarigi. Though its origin is not completely certain, it is said to have developed from a Burgundian grape introduced centuries ago by monks at the now abandoned Monastery of San Rocco.
Ruchè the wine is made from Ruchè grapes; the DOC regulations governing the appellation state that the wine must consist of at least 90% Ruchè, and can contain up to 10% Barbera or Brachetto, though they are not required. Minimum alcohol content is 12%, while minimum dry extract is 20 g/liter (Barbera del Monferrato's minimum extract, by comparison, is 25 g/liter).
Most of the Ruchè I have tasted was fermented and aged in steel, and is light and rather zesty. Some producers are also putting it into wood, which adds nuances, but also settles it somewhat. Since much of its charm revolves around its freshness and aromatics, it is in general a wine to be drunk young, though the folks at Scarpa offered me a 1996 Ruchè and I was pleasantly impressed.
In terms of wine and food pairings, Ruchè works quite well with mild cheese, stuffed pasta dishes (both meat and vegetable-based fillings), creamy pasta sauces and risotti, and light stews or roasts. Because of the lightness of the tannins and its aromatic richness it is also well suited more delicately flavored schools of Cinese cooking, for example Cantinese, and I would also be tempted to serve it with milder Indian dishes, because of the spicy aromatics of the nose. In particular, it could be quite nice with chicken cooked in a tandoor.
Montalbera is one of the older wineries in Castagnole Monferrato. They sent me the two wines below just before Vinitaly (and I have already posted the notes, but am reposting them here), and it was the quality of these wines that led me to decide to taste through Ruchè in Verona.
Montalbera La Tradizione Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2008
Pale ruby with white rim. The bouquet is powerful, with intense sugary raspberry fruit shot through with greenish sandalwood and haunting spice, and flowers, lots of purple and red flowers. Beautifully, intense, aromatic wine, and if you like this sort of rich fresh harmonious aromatic intensity it will impress you. On the palate it's fairly light, and dry, with rich floral laced berry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins and by an underlying savory bitterness that provides counterpoint, and flow into a clean fresh finish with aromas that echo those of the nose. Very pleasant, though particular; if you like this kind of wine you will like it very much. If you of not you won't, and though this is an obvious comment, unless you are absolutely certain you don't I would give it a try. Because it is nice, and will work very well far from the table too.
Montalbera L'Accento di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2008
The bottle is a little heavier than that of La Tradione, and the wine is slightly darker, though still pale ruby. The bouquet is powerful, but not quite as explosive nor as floral as La Tradizione's; it displays cherry and raspberry fruit laced with sandalwood and some greenish accents as well. Pleasant to sniff and quite harmonious, and as it opens some berry fruit/raspberry acidity also emerges, providing direction and counterpoint to the sweetness that is present. On the palate it's medium bodied and quite rich, with powerful slightly bitter berry fruit supported by deft cherry acidity and tannins that have a rather languid feel to them, and flow into a clean rather bitter berry fruit finish. It' a little fuller and has slightly more depth than the Tradizionale, but is not quite as bright. A slightly different interpretation, but equally interesting. As with La Tradizionale, it's a wine that will work well by the glass with friends. And since it has a little more bite to it, I would consider it with cheeses and cheese based dishes, for example a simple, elegant risotto, and perhaps simple grilled meats that aren't too fatty.
The Remainder, Almost All Tasted at Vinitaly:
Montalbera Roesus Vino Spumante Brut Metodo Martinetti
Since it's a Vino da Tavola they can't state the vintage, but it's a 2008.
Pale onionskin with fine onionskin perlage. The bouquet is bright, with sour berry fruit and wet underbrush mingled with some leafiness and brambles. On the palate it's bright, and though nominally brut is fairly sweet, with fairly rich bright berry fruit supported by lively acidity and clean bright sparkle that confers creaminess, while the sweetness provides roundness. Quite pleasant and will drink well as an aperitif or a tutto pasto, in the summer months, with grilled fish, and with grilled foods in general in the winter months. It will go quickly.
Montalbera Grignè Grignolino D'Asti 2008
Pale onionskin almandine with brilliant ruby reflections. The bouquet is rich with brambly accents and some greenish notes supported by greenish acidity. Quite pleasant, and though far from Merlot & Co., has a lot to say. On the palate it's medium bodied, with lively sour berry fruit that displays quite a bit of acidity, and is supported by scrappy smooth slightly greenish tannins that flow into a fresh greenish finish. Quite pleasant, and will work very well with fattier dishes, from the Bagna Caoda of Piemontese convivial tradition to fattier fish, eel for example, and also with succulent fattier grilled meats; it will be good with fried meats or fish and vegetables too. It is particular, but if you like brash wines with lively acidities you will like it very much. One might mistake it for a rosé in the glass, but the acidity takes it to a very different place.
Montalbera L'Accento Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC 2009
Deep violet. The bouquet is extraordinarily rich for a barrel sample, with explosive floral accents, red blossoms mostly, with spice and some red berry fruit that gains depth from underlying greenish accents. Terrific depth and most impressive; they find it to be superior to the 2008 and I would agree. On the palate it's rich, with bright berry fruit that gains depth from sandalwood spice and roundness from some sweetness; the overall picture is very pleasant and decidedly voluptuous in an exotic key. In terms of food wine pairings, it will work well with white meats, and also with spicy dishes, for example Indian or Thai, moderately aged cheese, and also richly flavored cold cuts, and even fattier fish. In short, it's an eclectic wine that will work well in many situations that are difficult to pair wines with.
Montalbera L'Accento Ruché Passito IGT 2007
This is from "uve stramature," extremely overripe grapes, and is an elegant almandine with dusky brick accents and orange rim. The bouquet is powerful and enticing though not as floral as that of the vino d'Annata; it's rich and sweet with nutmeg spice and berry fruit that's rather voluptuous and is laced with sweetness too, bringing a Moscato di Scanzo to mind though it's sweeter and more fruit driven, with richer floral accents. Beautiful spice too, nutmeg and peppery heat, which a fellow taster describes as gunpowder. On the palate it's full, rich, and sweet, with elegant cherry fruit supported by some mentholated accents and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a fairly long clean spicy finish with considerable warmth. A little more length would have been nice -- I found it more interesting on the nose than the palate -- but it is pleasant, and will work quite well with friends far from the table, or with spicy foods if you decide to serve it at table.
Montalbera L'Impronta Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC 2008
This went briefly into oak. Pale brick with black reflections and white rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with floral accents that aren't as strong as those of the Accento, but more powerful spice, and as it opens it is graceful. Just not as explosive, and as it opens further some red berry fruit emerges, very ripe, almost candied cherries. On the palate it's quite different, with moderate berry fruit supported by warmth and tannins that have a warm savory oak-laced burr and flow into a fairly long slightly oaky finish. It needs time to reabsorb the oak, and when it does it will be pleasant. However, it won't be as fresh as the unoaked wines, and to be frank I fail to understand why Ruché needs oak.
Bava Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC 2009
Dusky ruby with pale rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with a combination of red berry fruit and floral accents with some sandalwood and some sea salt. Nice balance, though not as rich as some. On the palate it's bright, and medium bodied, with rich red berry fruit supported by lively acidity and some sweetness with sandalwood spice that carry through into the finish, which is long, warm, and slightly greenish. Quite pleasant and very approachable in a direct key, it will be a nice match with spicy meats.
Luca Ferraris Bric D'Bianc Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC 2009
The vineyards once belonged to the Bianc Family (hence Bric d'Bianc), and are exposed to the northeast; the wine ages in steel. Pale ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is quite rich, with powerful berry fruit supported by floral accents and considerable slightly mentholated nutmeg and spice. Great depth and once could sniff, and sniff again. Many facets. On the palate it's bright, with fairly rich berry fruit supported by lively acidity and tannins that are a little brisker than some, laying down a warm berry fruit burr and flowing into a fairly long warm finish. Pleasant and approachable, by comparison with some of the other Ruché wines it is more of a food wine and will work well with spiced -- not sweet -- grilled meats or stews, and will also be a good bet with oriental dishes. Not so good by the glass due to the dryness of the tannins.
Luca Ferraris Ruché Opera Prima per il Fondatore Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC 2008
Deep brick ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is intense, with fairly rich spice and savory accents mingled with wood smoke and sea salt, while the grapes contribute fairly intense berry fruit but have less floral freshness. On the palate it's ample and quite smooth with rich cherry fruit supported by bright acidity and smooth sweet tannins that have some -- but not excessive -- cedary accents and flow into a graceful finish. It's quite pleasant, more on the palate than the nose, and displays considerable grace. It's atypical of Ruché both on the nose, which is much more mature and less floral than one normally expects, and on the palate, which displays considerable -- almost unexpected even -- finesse. It's a niche wine at present (this is the first vintage) but does interesting things to say and traces a rather different and new (at least for me) path for Ruché. I await future vintages with considerable curiosity.
Luca Ferraris Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC 2009
Just bottled; it's rich ruby with lively reflections and has an extremely elegant bouquet with rich floral accents mingled with sweetness and some red berry fruit with a pleasant underpinning of nutmeg and ace, though what really strikes are the floral accents. Most impressive. On the palate it's ample and very smooth, with rich flowery red berry fruit supported by bright acidity, and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a long finish in which greenish floral accents reemerge. Beautiful, and would be very nice to sip with friends on a summer evening, as the heat fades and the shadows lengthen. One of those wines one hates to pour out at a tasting.
Cossetti Clemente Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC 2007
Deep cherry ruby with black reflections. The bouquet is quite rich, in a slightly more mature key with berry fruit more than floral accents laced with sandalwood and nutmeg spice. Nice depth and complexity. On the palate it's medium bodied, and very smooth, with spicy berry fruit supported by moderate acidity and very smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean slightly dusky finish. It's no longer in the fresh throws of youth, but is by no means tired, and displays considerable depth, answering the question of how well Ruché will age. Quite well in the short term.
Cossetti Clemente Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC 2009
With this vintage they tried a brief period of cryomaceration (chilling the must to inhibit fermentation and keeping it on the skins to increase extraction) prior to fermentation. The wine is bright purple violet, youth in a glass. The bouquet is quite rich, with beautiful floral accents mingled with some berry fruit but to a greater degree spice -- nutmeg and cloves, and also hints of rock sugar that add depth. On the palate it's quite pleasant, with rich prune-laced berry fruit supported by mineral acidity and deft sandalwood-laced tannins that flow into a clean fairly long sweet fruit laced finish. Quite pleasant, and the cryomaceration does add to the wine's depth and complexity; it had quite a bit to say.
Da Capo Majoli Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC 2008
Dusky pale brick ruby with black reflections and brick rim. The bouquet is fresh and intense with berry fruit supported by deft floral accents and some spice, in particular nutmeg and mace. Nice depth and quite elegant, and as it opens greenish accents also emerge, blending into the fruit. On the palate it's a bit drier than the nose led me to expect, with moderately rich berry fruit supported by tannins that have leafy overtones and flow into a clean dry finish. The palate's not as fresh as I had hoped, and this makes the wine less interesting.
Produttori di Govone
Cantina Sociale Portacomaro Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC 2008
Rich cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with bright sweet berry fruit more than floral accents supported by peppery sandalwood spice. Nice depth and fairly intense, though it is also a bit nose-tingling. On the palate it's ample and quite smooth with moderately intense sour berry fruit supported by sweet tannins and berry fruit acidity laced with sandalwood warmth that goes on at length. Fairly direct, and pleasant, though the nose isn't as rich as some others, with more fruit and fewer floral accents. Because of the tannins and the acidity it is more of a food wine than a sipping wine, and will work well with rich spiced dishes; I would be tempted by ribs with bbq sauce or similar.
Gatti Pierfrancesco Caresona Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC 2009
Deep violet with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is intense and very fine, with rich floral accents laced with sandalwood and some cumin seed, a spice I hadn't noted in other Ruché wines, which adds depth. Also a fair amount of alcohol. Quite complex, with many facets to discover. On the palate it's medium bodied and quite rich, with elegant berry fruit laced with violets and red blossoms, and supported by a mix of berry fruit acidity and sweet tannins that flow into a very clean floral finish with warmth, berry fruit and some sandalwood that emerges in the finish to balance the warmth. Very nice and has a great deal to say; the warmth is such that I wouldn't drink it alone but rather with foods, and spicy stews (e.g. goulash) come to mind, as do grilled meats.
Dezzani Montio Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC 2006
This is first aged in steel, and then in bottle for 2 years prior to release. It's brick red with black reflections, and onionskin in the rim. The bouquet is considerably more mature than those of some other Ruché wines, with greenish accents and green leather and leaf tobacco supported by some spice. Older and feels it. On the palate it's fairly bright, with bright sour berry fruit supported by clean acidity and sweet tannins that flow into a clean finish. The palate is richer and more interesting than the nose, and has more to say. The nose instead has a tired feel to it, and lacks the rich floral accents that make Ruché so interesting. I'm certain that it was much more interesting last year, and this is a pity.
La Mondianese Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOC 2007
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections. The bouquet is intense, with dusky floral accents supported by sandalwood and some savory acidity, with underlying red berry fruit. On the palate it's medium bodied and very smooth, with moderately intense berry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins and moderate acidity that resolves into warmth, while the floral accents and sandalwood reemerge in the finish. Pleasant and will drink well with cheese based dishes or light stews, and will also be a good bet with oriental dishes. Has quite a bit to say and is worth seeking out.
Tasted in the course of Nebbiolo Prima:
Scarpa's vineyards are outside the Ruchè appellation, and they consequently label their Ruchè Monferrato Rosso DOC.
Scarpa Briccorosa Rouchet Monferrato Rosso DOC 2007
Elegant, lively ruby with brilliant reflections and black highlights, cherry rim paling to orange. The bouquet is absolutely classic, with rich floral accents supported by sandalwood spice and jammy berry fruit with some underlying yellow peach jam, and hints of menthol as well, It's a moving target and very pleasant to sniff. On the palate it's ample and rich, with powerful red berry fruit supported by sandalwood spice and clean rich berry fruit acidity, and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a bright spicy berry fruit finish with rich floral accents. Very pleasant and will drink quite well with cheeses and cheese dishes, also with friends far from the table.
Scarpa also have a 1996, which was bottled as a vino da tavola:
With respect to the 2007 it's a duskier black almandine with black reflections. the bouquet is interesting, with rich mentholated spice supported by some sandalwood and hints of cloves, but what really comes out is the menthol. Very interesting. On the palate it's full, with rich slightly smoky berry fruit supported by menthol spice, some rather dusty sandalwood, and fairly bright cedary acidity that is the grape and not wood; with more sniffing dried orange peel emerges in both nose and finish. Quite interesting and though it doesn't have the freshness of the 2007 it is very much alive, and impressively so. Quite pleasant.
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Between Here And There - I took this shot during the Pelleginaggio Artusiano in the spring of 2011. The mirror is somewhere between Castrocaro Terme and Portico di Romagna (on the ...
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